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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference on Informal NATO Ministerial

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 07, 2003

            Secretary Rumsfeld:  This is a big event, needless to say, not just for Colorado Springs but for our country and for NATO.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the last two, two and a half years has done some things it's never done before in history.  We proposed a NATO Response Force last year, the Prague Summit endorsed it, and it's happening.  It is a significant event.

 

            The task today is to be able to deal with problems in hours or days, not weeks or months or years, and the NATO Response Force is going to be designed to do exactly that.

 

            I hope, we won't know for a year or two or three, but we know how hard change is, it always is.  But the people in the armed services of the NATO countries are professionals.  They care about their profession and they want the phone to ring when there's a problem.  If the phone doesn't ring, then why do they do what they do?

 

            So the NATO Response Force will be used and I suspect that what will happen is that what is learned from that activity, greater agility, more responsiveness, greater lethality, will get back into the military of the NATO nations because of the point I made that they're going to want the phone to ring as well.  So I think it's a significant event.

 

            Second, NATO has just done something that it's never done before in its many many decades and that is to engage in an activity outside of Europe.  It has done it two ways.  One in Afghanistan, it's taken over the International Security Assistance Force; and in Iraq it has been assisting Poles in the generation of forces and various other types of assistance with respect to its lead role in Iraq.

 

            That is a major investment for an organization that began looking only within the NATO Treaty area, took a tentative step out in the Balkans, Europe, and now has taken a step obviously into a part of the world that cannot be described as anything approximating Europe, but it's a very significant step.

 

            I would add that despite the constant talking points that say we're going it alone, there are 11 countries of NATO of the 19 that are currently in Iraq; there are six of the seven invitees that are currently in Iraq; and it was announced in the press but I've not had an opportunity to verify it, that [another] NATO country might provide forces in Iraq.  So that would make it 12 out of 19 if that's the case.  I just have been too busy doing other things --

 

            Q:            [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, I think it is appreciated.  The United States went out to well over 100 countries many many months ago and indicated the kinds of things that would be helpful.  We now have some 32 countries involved in Iraq and I've been told the number of NATO countries that are involved, and I hate to comment on it because I haven't seen anything other than press reports and that just isn't a good thing for me to be commenting on.  I find that too often they're off in one way or another.  So I'm going to leave it there.

 

            If it turns out to be the case that in fact the Cabinet and  [inaudible], now we'll presumably have to work with the Iraqis and with the Central Command will begin the task of saying how and in what ways that might happen if in fact it's going to happen.

 

            Questions?

 

            Q:            Can I just follow that up real quickly?

 

            Do you have any indication or a sense that the Iraqis would be opposed to Turkish participation?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'm sure.  You have Iraqis all across the spectrum.  Some will be very happy, some will be worried, some will be neutral, some won't have an opinion.  If you run around with a microphone you can find somebody with any opinion in any country on the face of the earth.

 

            Q:            In a form that would change the --

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, I think I'll leave that to Jerry Bremer.  He works those issues.

 

            Clearly if some large number of troops are available from a country that's interested in seeing a stable Iraq and that contributes to the security situation and relieves the stress on other forces and enables people to do things they otherwise wouldn't be able to do, that's a good thing.

 

            The other thing it does is it, the fact that there are 32-plus, 33 countries involved in Iraq, that only gives you the benefit of their activities.  It's a very important political statement.   It shows political courage, military courage and personal courage.  And it shows a commitment on their part to have it succeed which is a good thing, to have countries feeling that they're committed to seeing it work and that they're willing to engage themselves politically and militarily.  That is a healthy thing for Iraq and for the Iraqi people.

 

            Q:            Do you have a view on how you would like Turkey to participate?  Would it be on the same sort of basis as the Polish contribution of providing a core --

 

            Rumsfeld:  My view on that is it's the kind of thing that we'll sit down with General Abizaid and worry through those issues, how it makes sense.  And with Jerry Bremer and the Governing Council and find forms and models and modes that are comfortable for the maximum number of people and that process now will just start.

 

            Q:            The other out of area [inaudible] discussion.  There's a lot of talk within NATO about expanding ISAF outside of Kabul.  Have you been discussing that with your colleagues?  Do you expect some decision while you're here even though this is…

 

            Rumsfeld:  I wouldn't want to predict decisions on a discussion.  Many many months ago we fashioned the idea of a provincial reconstruction team for Afghanistan and called it a transition away from the purely security activity towards the reconstruction type activity.  Then put a team in place.  Then I started going around to countries like Germany and Norway and New Zealand and others and asking them to think about it.  It's a positive thing they can do.  It's something that's relatively modest in terms of numbers of people.  It's not like it's an enormous demand on a country.  Yet it has a very good effect in Afghanistan.

 

            Some of you visited some of these.  The relationships that are developed are healthy things.  The good works, the projects they undertake from the reconstruction standpoint are very good.  It may even be a model that makes sense sometime in Iraq. 

 

            There have been proposals by some NATO countries -- we've always favored an expansion outside of Kabul.  There weren't a lot of countries in line standing in queue to do it.  There may be now.  That is to say this model might be something that would lengthen the skew that would be a good thing.  We'll just have to see how many countries are interested and how NATO feels about it.  I don't think NATO's made any formal decision on it.

 

            Voice:  Germany has volunteered --

 

            Rumsfeld:  I know that, but that's not NATO is it?

 

            Voice:  Yes.

 

            Rumsfeld:  It is under a NATO umbrella.

 

            Voice:  And the Alliance made a tentative decision yesterday to approve that.  Further steps, but something might happen in the next couple of days on that to --

 

            Rumsfeld:  It could happen here.

 

            Voice:  Exactly.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Very interesting.  Ask somebody who knows something about it.  Nick's been a NATO Ambassador for 28 years, 30 years.

 

            What else?

 

            Q:            What about a long-term role for NATO in Iraq?  We've had reports that [inaudible] particularly  [inaudible].

 

            Rumsfeld:  With 18 out of 26 NATO countries in there, the 11+1 and then the six out of seven invitees, plus the formal role unfolding. 

 

            There's [Brett] there.  They've got responsibilities. 

 

            Voice:  [inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  We don't have any chairs and the interview is almost over, so --

 

            Voice:  I was the only network covering your other event, so --

 

            Rumsfeld:  I see.

 

            If you think about it, they just bit off a bucket with the first out of area activity in Afghanistan.  It's up to NATO.  One would think that the more countries that get involved the easier those types of things happen.  These things tend to move, they tend to migrate over in that direction but I wouldn't want to predict anything or even speculate about it.  I don't know.

 

            Q:            Mr. Secretary, what is your reaction to the story that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was given the reigns in Iraq?  Were you surprised by the memo?  And what's your reaction to it?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I get, I don't know, four or five memos a day from the NSC and I probably send out four or five a day to other agencies.  I just happened to, we received that memo I'm told on Friday. It is basically -- I'm surprised it hasn't been released to the press.  It is a one-pager that simply says the things that NSC is chartered to do.  It's chartered to do interagency coordination and that what the memo says.

 

            Q:            It's being billed as more of an oversight thing.  What's your reaction to it?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We haven't come out with any reaction to it.  I think I'll leave it to the White House to react to it.

 

            Q:            You weren't a part of the creation of the stabilization group?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Pardon me?

 

            Q:            You weren't part of the creation of this oversight group?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't remember it being discussed, but it is basically a memorandum that says the NSC is going to be doing that which it's chartered to do if you sit down and read it.

 

            Q:            What about the perception I keep reading that you're not getting the job done? 

 

            Rumsfeld:  I wouldn't know how to comment on that.

 

            Q:            The creation of this group and putting Condoleezza Rice in charge of this, you don't think that's in any way a reflection of what you've been able to accomplish so far in Iraq?  The reconstruction effort?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't.  I happen to think that what's happened in Iraq, that what General Abizaid and General Sanchez and the division commanders in that country and Jay Garner and Jerry Bremer have done have been probably unmatched in history.  In five months and one week to have done what they've done.  That is to say they have the schools open, have the hospitals operating, have the universities functioning, have a new currency, have a central bank, have no humanitarian crisis in terms of the public, not have tens of thousands of internally displaced people or refugees, to have gone from zero to 56,000 Iraqi Security Forces, to have gotten the oil fields functioning and operating, to have the electric system back up -- which was badly damaged and starved of funds for decades -- back up and operating at I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, at pre-war levels.

 

            Voice:  Right at the end of pre-war levels.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right at the edge of pre-war levels.  To have tens of thousands of construction projects completed by the military and by entrepreneurs doing things that get some things in that country.  It is -- On the one hand the public's been fed a line of no plan and no progress, and it stands in such stark contrast to what the facts are on the ground that you couldn't have done those things without plans.

 

            I was amused at the Wall Street Journal's article a week or so ago about the fact that we'd been in private planning with the World Food Organization at the United Nations prior to the war and they wanted to keep it secret because they didn't want to be complicit in the conduct of a war, which of course directly contradicts all of this talk about no one doing any planning.  So I just have the highest regard for the job that's been done on the civilian and on the military side. 

 

            It's a tough situation, sure.  Is there low intensity conflict taking place?  Yes.  Are people being killed and wounded?  Yes.  Does that always break your heart?  You bet your life it does.  But it's a tough business.  The Ansar Al Islam terrorist organization is there.  They're functioning.  There are foreign terrorists in the country and they are being sought out, captured and killed.  It's part of the global war on terror.  It's a good thing that's being done by the United States and by the Coalition countries.  I think that I give those folks very very high marks as I know anyone who has looked at history would have to give them very very high marks.

 

            Q:            Mr. Secretary you've said that the answer to the attacks on U.S. troops eventually is just a transfer of the government to the Iraqis.  Is that fairly accurate?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That security in that country is the task of the Iraqis and we need to continue to grow those security forces.  Vet them, fix them, improve them, train them, help supply them, and then pass off responsibility to them.

 

            Q:            Does that mean that you would expect the attacks to continue until U.S. troops are out?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We've had attacks in this country, we've had attacks in most of the countries of the world.

 

            Q:            But at the kind of pace we're seeing now --

 

            Rumsfeld:   I don't know that they would stop then.  We've had a lot of Iraqi security people killed.  These people are not just sitting around drinking coffee.  The Iraqi Security Forces, I don't have the number in front of me but it's a sizeable number of Iraqi security people that have been killed and wounded and it's because they're out there.

 

            Now how many policemen in the United States get killed and wounded every year?  How many firemen get killed and wounded?  I don't suppose you're ever going to find in the history of man the end of some people, human beings, behaving in anti-social ways.

 

            But our task is not to make a career out of that.  Our task is not to reconstruct that country so that it makes up for 30 years, 35 years, whatever it was, of Saddam Hussein's stalling economy.  Our task is to go in, stabilize the situation, help build up their security forces, help jumpstart their economy, and then with the rest of the international community wish them well and hope that it goes well and be there to provide assistance to the extent it makes sense.

 

            Q:            Can I ask you about the other issue of the day?  Who do you like in the recall?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, come on.  I don't do that stuff.  [Laughter]

 

            Q:            I work for the L.A. Times.  I have to ask.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't do that.  No, sir.

 

            Q:            There is one issue you might want to comment on.  We've been studying and talking about so much stress on the forces, there's a new rotation coming up for Iraq.  The Turkish development, though you haven't read about it, could change that.  Have you made any decisions about alerting more National Guard, telling any of the standing force to get ready to go to Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'll tell you, I'm going to avoid talking about it.  I've met with so many family members and troops that are concerned about the lack of certainty, and they hear one thing in the press and then some person in the chain of command at this level says something, and someone else says basically the same thing but slightly different words, and it sounds different, and it sets a jangle in their head, and here they are, they're emotional.  They've got their husbands and loved ones over there, their spouses, and they want to know with certainty.  And all the chatter about all of this it seems to me is unhelpful.

 

            What we've got is, I have tried to put a clamp on it and get the services and the Joint Staff and David Chu's operation looking at it in an orderly, disciplined way, which they are, and then make some very clear decisions that say what we know and say what we don't know and then have it given to the chain of command and have them have a communication plan and a legislative relations plan so it goes down that chain as directly and correctly and surely as it was written in the first instance.  It's kind of like the rules of engagement problem we ran into.  I think I've described this to some of you where you sit down in Washington and you write the rule of engagement and you give it to Tommy Franks, and then it goes to the next level and the guy takes a tuck in it, takes about a two or three or four percent tuck.  He wants to be inside that line.  Then it goes to the next level and he takes a tuck in it.  By the time it gets down to the poor guy with a rifle it doesn't even look anything like we intended.  We have to see that the thing goes down straight without people using their judgment.

 

            Q:            Tell it straight from the top.

 

            Rumsfeld:  We do.  That's why we're taking these --

 

            Previously everyone had their own thing.  Everyone could go out and say what they want, commanders could say what they want.  Now we're trying to help them understand how harmful that is.

 

            The same thing on stop loss, for example.  The same thing on the leave arrangement that we're trying to work out.  Once you announce something like that, if you don't announce it exactly right everyone things they're going to get it and there aren't that many slots for it for everyone instantaneously.  You don't want to empty the country at one moment.

 

            So we're trying to find a way -- The tools in the department are really industrial age.  They are not 21st Century tools.  We don't have the skill or the ability to do things in a nuanced way which we really do need to do.  We've got folks working on it.  Pete Schoomaker's working on it and he's going to get it better.

 

            Q:            Mr. Secretary, what do you think the prospect of NATO, what is the prospect of NATO in Iraq?  Do you see the expanded role for NATO in Afghanistan as the trial run for --

 

            Rumsfeld:  I've answered that.  Before you got here.

 

            Q:            [Inaudible] chances that NATO will become involved?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't do that.

 

            Q:            Can you tell us what you're hearing from your colleagues here though?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'll go back and repeat it.

 

            We've got 11 and probably within about six months it will be 12 countries on those [teams] that are already in Iraq -- NATO countries; and another six out of the seven invitees.  If you add 11 and six, that's 17.  If there's a possibility of one other country, that's 18 out of a total of 26.

 

            Second, we know that NATO is supporting Poland in their preparations and their activities in implementing a division there.  NATO has just taken over in Afghanistan the International Security Force.  The first time in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that they've done something outside of Europe.  That is a very big thing.  It's an enormous thing.

 

            So what they'll do next is on NATO.  But we know that the overwhelming majority of the NATO countries are already engaged, and we know that NATO as an institution is helping Iraq.  We know they just did a very big thing in Afghanistan.  Who knows what they'll do next.  But things tend to move along at a pace.  Things tend not to go from here to here.  They tend to go in --

 

            Q:            A Bosnian question.  The EU [European Union] a couple of days ago, I think maybe on Friday, basically agreed amongst themselves that they were prepared to take over the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.  Is that something -- from NATO.  Is that something that you would take?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That's a matter that Nick and I have talked about.  It's something that the U.S. government is discussing. 

 

[Portion omitted due to ground rules.]

 

            What else?

 

            Q:            How about Syria?  Given that the United States has said Syria is a supporter of terrorism and Israel's attack [inaudible].  How [inaudible]?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'm not going to get into it.  It's a State Department issue.  I'm out of Washington.  I haven't even had time to read the intel and I haven't talked to Colin or the President on the subject.  It's all happened since [inaudible].  I don't know.

 

[Portion omitted due to ground rules.]

 

            Q:            The situation in Guantanamo.  Have you gotten any clarity as to what [inaudible], if they're guilty what [inaudible] were trying to do?  Organize cells, individuals who were moved to help these people, what their goals were?

 

            Rumsfeld:  In answer to your on the record request, the answer is it's under investigation.  I've had at least two meetings on the subject.  People are proceeding in an orderly way. I have confidence that we'll get to the bottom of it.

 

            Q:            Can you give us off the record any more insight into that?

 

            [Multiple voices]

 

            Q:            -- evidence that there was some coordination between these people.  I've heard, for instance, that the [Buzman Chapel] is so small they couldn't have possibly not bumped into each other there.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Even off the record it's not for me to delve into a set of legal issues like that that are being actively investigated.  I've not read the articles in the press about it.  I've seen reports to me and I've been briefed twice.  I think I probably know more than I should if I'm going to be talking on or off the record about it.

 

            But obviously any time you have allegations of that type of wrongdoing it's something that the President takes very seriously.

 

[Portion omitted due to ground rules.]

 

            Q:            [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Someone mentioned there were a few.

 

            Q:            Did you see any of the signs [inaudible]?  [Inaudible] your reaction is now?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't have a reaction.

 

            Q:            [Inaudible] show us the WMD?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'll tell you, on that subject on the record, I was up there eating my cobb salad, I think, with Larry and I read two things.  One was Colin Powell's piece and I think we have some copies here in case you missed it.  It is -- [Laughter]… I said to Larry, why don't we pass it out in case anyone hasn't seen it?  I mean he's [inaudible].  Anyone who's got a sign that says no WMD, read Colin's speech.

 

            The other piece to read is off the CIA web site, the unclassified version of David Kay's presentation. 

 

[Portion omitted due to ground rules.]

 

            Q:            I think we're done.

 

            Q:            Thank you for your time.

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